Monday, July 21, 2008

This Week's News: Youth in Transition


States avoid slashing higher ed money – July 17, 2008
Tuition at the University of Kentucky will increase 9 percent this fall, University of Maine students will pay about 10 percent more and University of Michigan-Ann Arbor tuition will rise 5.6 percent. Yet students at those schools could feel lucky they aren’t paying even more. Despite a tough economic climate, several states are attempting to hold down college tuition – or at least not let increases get out of control – by avoiding deep cuts to higher education, an area that states have been quick to slash in past years when funds were low. The effort to hold down tuition stems from states tying their economic futures to an educated workforce. The biggest economic payoff for states will come from “sending their kids to college,” Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial, told governors at the National Governors Association meeting earlier this month in Philadelphia. To be competitive, workers will need at least a college degree, Swonk said, and since the federal government is not meeting this challenge, finding ways to educate people is falling to states and local jurisdictions.

Summer slide: Low-income students can lose ground when school is out
The Mercury News – July 16, 2008
They call it the “summer slide”. As June slips into July and then the dog days of August, many of the math skills, history lessons and new vocabulary words that students acquired during the school year slip without the routine of daily classes. Over time, such advantage as summer programs can catapult higher-income children even further ahead of their lower-income peers. That has educators increasingly worried that the achievement gap – the academic chasm that separates black and Latino students from their white and Asian peers – actually widens over the summer. The safety nets that exist during the school year – from easily available free and reduced price meals to one-on-one tutoring and after-school programs – are gone. And while summer programs do exist for disadvantaged kids, the slots are scarce. Also, those summer programs that do exist for low-income students are often launched only to disappear when grants dry up or budgets are cut. Alexander found the summer slide had a cumulative and devastating effect. “We followed the same group of students year to year,” said Alexander. “By the ninth grade, the low-income students were 3 ½ grade levels behind their more advantaged peers.”

24% of California Students Drop Out Of High School
eNews 2.0 – July 17, 2008
Employing a new system for tracking high school dropouts, California discovered a rate significantly higher than the one previously calculated by educators, using another technique. The state issued the results on Wednesday, estimating that 1 in 4 California students gave up school last year. Beyond the proved 24 percent dropout rate, the data released by state schools chief Jack O’Connell also shows that African American and Latino students quit school in a bigger proportion than other ethnic groups. The state Education Department says it can now determine dropouts far more precisely making use of its new “Statewide Student Identifier System” in which every student is given an exclusive, anonymous ID number. With the help of the new method, schools can follow the trace of missing students for the first time, and find out whether students sign up to another in California, even if it is in a different district or city. The system, which will cost $33 million over the next three years, other than the millions invested for the initial development, guarantees to eventually offer a considerably better manner to figure out where students go and their reasons for doing so.

Juvenile Justice

‘Gap kids’ fate to be decided in Family Court
The Providence Journal – July 11, 2008
Dozens of “gap kids” who were charged as adults during the 130 days when Rhode Island prosecuted 17-year-olds as adults are entitled to Family Court hearings to determine if they should be tried in adult courts, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday. “We hold that juveniles, including defendants before us, should have been presented in the Family Court in the first instance, “ Justice Maureen McKenna Goldberg wrote in the court’s 26-page opinion. “ A juvenile may be referred to adult court only after a probable-cause hearing and a finding by the hearing justice that waiver of jurisdiction is appropriate and consistent with the statute.” The decision detailed the “jurisdictional quagmire” that resulted from Governor Carcieri’s proposal to save money by treating 17-year-olds as adults in criminal matters. The General Assembly adopted the proposal, which was based on the assumption that the Adult Correctional Institutions would prove cheaper than the Training School. But the savings proved to be questionable, at best. And, Goldberg wrote, “The record is devoid of any legislative findings that this amendment constituted sound social policy, that it was in the best interests of the juvenile offenders to whom it would apply, or that it was a prudent fiscal measure.” The Assembly ended up repealing the law. But the repeal was not retroactive, so that a created a population of about 500 gap kids who had been charged as adults between July 1 and Nov. 8, 2007.

Report says Calif. should end juvenile prisons
The Mercury News – July 14, 2008
A state watchdog commission recommended Monday that California phase out its antiquated juvenile prisons by 2011, replacing them with regional lockups run by counties. The regional centers would hold only the most dangerous offenders under the proposal by the Little Hoover Commission. Less serious offenders would be housed at local juvenile halls. Commissioners said the state should end its three-year experiment with combining youth and adult prisons under the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Authority over youth prisons would be placed under an Office of Juvenile Justice reporting to the governor until the state ends its involvement. The report said giving counties responsibility for housing juvenile offenders would bring substantial savings but doesn’t estimate how much that would be. The commission found that the state has made some progress in reforming its youth prison system. Next week, an Alameda County judge will consider whether those reforms are taking too long. If so, the judge might appoint a receiver with broad oversight powers.

Foster Care

DCF Settlement Calls For More Foster Families
The Courant – July 18, 2008
In the latest development in a nearly 20-year battle, a federal judge approved a settlement Thursday that orders the state to recruit more foster families to help troubled children and reduce the number of non-family group homes for abused youth. The order represents the newest corrective action plan in the case knows as Juan F., a long-running battle between the troubled Department of Children and Families and children’s advocates who filed a class-action lawsuit against the agency. “After dragging its feet for more than a year on issues critical to the well-being of Connecticut’s abused and neglected children, DCF has finally made a serious commitment to address them,” said Ira Lustbader, a lawyer for Children’s Rights, a national watchdog group that has clashed with DCF for nearly two decades. In a 14-page agreement, the two sides agreed that the state must add 850 new foster family homes over the next two years. Currently, more than 30 percent of the children who are under DCF’s care do not live with families, which is far above the national benchmark of 18 percent. Instead, they live in expensive settings that include emergency shelters, hospitals, treatment centers, and non-family group homes.

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